For The New Girls: A Female Victim of Crime: A Story of Guns, Aggression and Blame

By Nombuso Nkambule (@hrh_nombuso)

The Pragmatic Peggy in me went into auto-pilot and I immediately phoned Parkview Police Station who promptly responded to the scene. However, before I walked towards the blue lights I looked down at my attire of a short wax-print skirt and sheer blouse and immediately decided to change into something that covered my knees and elbows because I was afraid of the persecution of being ‘another’ underdressed female victim of crime. I was afraid of the patriarchal judgement that comes with being a female in this country, we are often blamed for the things that happen to us and accused of bringing these things upon ourselves:“why were you wearing that short skirt?” and “why didn’t you have some male friends there to protect you” and my favourite line that later came from the Zoo Lake Bowling Club car guards, “why didn’t you scream or something?”.

I’m a lover of the heart of Jozi. I love the suburban states of urbanisation and youth culture that are Braamfontein and Maboneng and Zoo Lake. There is a social and creative pull towards the picturesque lawns and clinking of glasses found at Zoo Lake and The Zoo Lake Bowling Club. Last Friday, the rolling green lawns, dilapidated basketball courts and construction sites littered with ‘Road Closed’ signs seemed like the perfect location to shoot a style lookbook of Sports Luxe fashion and some super stylised African and Indian cultural fusion fashion for Vanguard. The background here was set for a cool, cultural and imaginative shoot, we took some really great photographs and had fun dressing up in Bindi’s and Jordan sportswear. It was a beautiful afternoon in Johannesburg and we just behaved like the four youthful, cultural and fashionable hob nobs that we are.

It began to get dark, but determined to get the right light and to capture the silhouette of the Zoo Lake brickyard against the gold nose rings that I had worn we decided to keep shooting for just a little while longer. Finally satisfied with a job well done after hours of conceptualising and shooting in the cold, we headed towards the car and two men headed towards us. The moment they started to approach I felt an ominous chill run down my spine, and I knew we were about to be robbed. My friend asked who the men were and I whispered that we were in trouble. The shorter of the two men locked eyes with me beneath his ‘spottie’ and cocked a gun in our faces. I froze.

What I had sensed and feared very quickly became a scary reality. I felt like a bitter old pro in my reaction as this was the second time in 6 months that a gun had been pulled on me in my Jozi so I knew the drill – give them anything they ask for. Vulnerable and overpowered, we did as he asked. “Hey, give me your phones, I said give me your phone! Msunu!” The abusive aggression towards women that this breed of hardened criminals harbours is enough to make anyone feel ill. I instinctively raised my arms to the sides to show him that I didn’t have the phone he demanded and subconsciously patted myself down to show him that I was telling the truth.

I pleaded with the universe that all they would take from us was our possessions and not our bodies, or lives. We were lucky, well as lucky as anyone can be in these situations, and we managed to escape the incident alive. When they took my iPad and the photographers camera with all the images from the shoot, all I could (guiltily) think of was that what I wanted the memory stick.

The Pragmatic Peggy in me went into auto-pilot and I immediately phoned Parkview Police Station who promptly responded to the scene. However, before I walked towards the blue lights I looked down at my attire of a short wax-print skirt and sheer blouse and immediately decided to change into something that covered my knees and elbows because I was afraid of the persecution of being ‘another’ underdressed female victim of crime. I was afraid of the patriarchal judgement that comes with being a female in this country, we are often blamed for the things that happen to us and accused of bringing these things upon ourselves:“why were you wearing that short skirt?” and “why didn’t you have some male friends there to protect you” and my favourite line that later came from the Zoo Lake Bowling Club car guards, “why didn’t you scream or something?”.

All this blame and lack of empathy from the men we asked for help is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to me that this kind of attitude and mentality foregoes the reporting of crime and makes us as women afraid to seek the help we so desperately need because apparently, we should know better. The message is that we bring crime upon ourselves by the clothes we wear and the fact that as females we are soft targets.

Even if that is what you believe, nobody asks to be a victim of crime. Nobody wants to have to stop going to social hangouts that they love, or have to move around with guys to protect them because of this fear that somebody will hurt you. Nobody wants to live a life of imposed restrictions because of a society that is riddled with crime and opportunists and founded on a patriarchal system in which women should be seen (bar the wrists, ankles and knees) and not heard.

It is unacceptable for me to have to live in this kind of perpetual fear for my life and my skirt because apparently we bring this kind of sick crime upon ourselves. I don’t accept that, I cannot. But the dangers that lurk a little beyond the way are forcing me to and to live a life of hypervigilance and fear.

Nombuso Nkambule is a modern day princess of the Valoyi clan. She is your go to new girl on opinions on love, boys and oestrogen. A born writer, doctor in the making and struggling model who is just trying to survive the bone throw in these Jozi streets. She is also the Fashion and Culture Editor of Vanguard Magazine.

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